And this same Hattie, whose heart’s desire had once been to kiss Love, but whose lips were still a little twisted with the taste of clay, could kiss only Love’s offspring now. But not bitterly. Thanksgivingly.
Love’s offspring was Marcia. Sixteen and the color and odor of an ivory fan that has lain in frangipani. And Hattie could sometimes poke her tongue into her cheek over this bit of whimsy:
It was her well-paid effort in the burnt cork that made possible, for instance, the frill of real lace that lay to the low little neck of Marcia’s first party dress, as if blown there in sea spume.
Out of the profits of Hattie’s justly famous Brown Cold Cream—Guaranteed Color-fast—Mulatto, Medium, Chocolate, had come Marcia’s ermine muff and tippet; the enamel toilet set; the Steinway grand piano; the yearly and by no means light tuition toll at Miss Harperly’s Select Day School for Girls.
You get the whimsy of it? For everything fair that was Marcia, Hattie had brownly paid for. Liltingly, and with the rill of the song of thanksgiving in her heart.
That was how Hattie moved through her time. Hugging this melody of Marcia. Through the knife-edged nervous evenings in the theater. Bawlings. Purple lips with loose muscles crawling under the rouge. Fetidness of scent on stale bodies. Round faces that could hook into the look of vultures when the smell of success became as the smell of red meat. All the petty soiled vanities, like the disordered boudoir of a cocotte. The perpetual stink of perfume. Powder on the air and caking the breathing. Open dressing-room doors that should have been closed. The smelling geometry of the make-up box. Curls. Corsets. Cosmetics. Men in undershirts, grease-painting. “Gawdalmighty, Tottie, them’s my teddy bears you’re puttin’ on.” Raw nerves. Raw emotions. Ego, the actor’s overtone, abroad everywhere and full of strut. “Overture!” The wait in the wings. Dizziness at the pit of the stomach. Audiences with lean jaws etched into darkness. Jaws that can smile or crack your bones and eat you. Faces swimming in the stage ozone and wolfish for cue. The purple lips—
Almost like a frieze stuck on to the border of each day was Hattie’s life in the theater. Passementerie.
That was how Hattie treated it. Especially during those placid years of the phenomenal New York run of “Love Me Long.” The outer edge of her reality. The heart of her reality? Why, the heart of it was the long morning hours in her own fragrant kitchen over doughnuts boiled in oil and snowed under in powdered sugar! Cookies that bit with a snap. Filet of sole boned with fingers deft at it and served with a merest fluff of tartar sauce. Marcia ate like that. Preciously. Pecksniffily. An egg at breakfast a gag to the sensibilities! So Hattie ate hers in the kitchen, standing, and tucked the shell out of sight, wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Beefsteak, for instance, sickened Marcia, because there was blood in the ooze of its juices. But Hattie had a sly way of camouflage. Filet mignon (so strengthening, you see) crushed under a little millinery of mushrooms and served under glass. Then when Marcia’s neat little row of neat little teeth bit in and the munch began behind clean and careful lips, Hattie’s heart, a regular old bandit for cunning, beat hoppity, skippity, jump!